The Christmases of my childhood were nothing short of magical. They were perfect, truly. When I envision the Christmases spanning from circa 1986 through circa 1992 (that’s “circa” age 5 to “circa” age 11) I picture…Hallmark. Or, Pottery Barn Christmas Catalogue. Magical.
We lived in Florida for a good portion of my growing up years, but every year at Christmas time, we would make the journey to Houston, where my grandparents, aunt, and cousins resided. We didn’t fly, we road-tripped. Our backseat a cozy nook of pillows, blankets, books and reading lights. 16 hours of driving. My sister and I loved every second of it. It was the best adventure ever.
The week of Christmas was spent at my grandparents’ house in Houston. For my very early years, they lived in a house that they had lived in since they were first married, in 1953. I loved that house. Just thinking about that house makes my heart smile. By late elementary, they had moved into my great grandmother’s childhood home, and it was stunningly beautiful. The jewel of their little town of Crosby (a suburb of Houston). I loved going back to school in Florida when Christmas break was over, and telling friends about the time spent at my grandparents mansion.
My memories are bursting at the seams with images of cousins, Christmas pajamas, ice skating, Christmas movies, trees literally laden with gifts, my grandparents’ green ceramic table-top Christmas tree, with the night-bright looking lights…y’all know the one I’m talking about.
It was all just so very perfect magical Christmas….in my little-girl mind, as well as in my big-girl memories. Not in reality though.
In reality, the reason we drove the 16 hours straight through in my parents run-down Audi that they bought used in 1987 (car-topper installed incorrectly on the top), was because we couldn’t afford to fly, and couldn’t afford to stop for the night in a hotel. My parents surely must have bickered all along the way, as 16 hours cooped up in a car with two kids would do that to anyone, not to mention the road rage my dad suffered from. My grandparents were chain smokers, and that house of theirs that I loved so much, positively reeked of cigarette smoke. The “jewel” of a home they eventually moved into? It really was pretty, but a mansion, it was not. In need of many repairs and much updating, its peeling paint began to peel even more, as cigarette smoke eventually permeated that house, too. We had presents under the tree ONLY because my hard-working dad had side jobs (in addition to his regular job) doing things like selling pecans and delivering dry ice. And those cousins that are such a crucial part of all my Golden Aura-Surrounded Christmas Memories? They spent so much time with us because their mom, my aunt, (now an amazing woman and amazing mother) was battling a serious drug addiction, and wasn’t in a good place to be able to care for them herself.
The reality of those Christmases, for those people living in the REAL world (ie: the adults) was some happiness and merriment, mixed with a LOT of stress, worry, sadness, and exhaustion.
But children are naturally selfish, so we were too, and therefore largely unphased and blissfully unaware of the hardships of real life…we were too caught up in the magic.
Kids experience things differently and remember things differently than how they actually occurred, and that can be a good thing. Magic comes more easily for them.
What does that mean for you? It means you don’t have to make Christmas perfect, in order for it to feel magical for your kids. It doesn’t have to be perfect in reality, for it to be remembered as perfect, when they are looking back one day.
Maybe you can’t afford to shower them with as many gifts as you had hoped, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be magical for them.
Maybe you and your spouse bickered as you drove around looking at Christmas lights, babies crying in the backseat and older children fighting with one another? You probably went home feeling completely defeated, but shockingly, it probably still felt magical to your children, and will be remembered fondly.
Maybe half of your Advent Calendar plans never came to fruition? The ones you were able to pull off felt magical to them, I almost guarantee it.
So sit back and relax. Give yourself a break. Go easy on yourself.
It’s all more magical than you realize.